A judge on Thursday appointed a special prosecutor to handle the murder case against the white Chicago police officer who shot a black teenager 16 times, video of which led to large protests and the eventual ouster of the city’s police superintendent.
At a hearing, Cook County Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan swore in Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon to handle the prosecution of Officer Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder last year in the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald just hours before authorities released the police dash-cam video showing him repeatedly shooting the teenager.
After the hearing, McMahon told reporters that three prosecutors from Kane County and one from Winnebago County will assist him in the case.
“I and this team have one goal in this case, that is to find the truth, to present the truth and ask that justice be served in this case,” he said.
Civil rights attorneys who pushed for a special prosecutor said they were dismayed by the choice of McMahon.
“Given the high number of qualified attorneys in Cook County who have the experience, resources and who are fully independent of law enforcement, we’re surprised and disappointed that all of them have been passed over,” they said.
The appointment comes as the city scrambles to regain public trust in the police department and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Earlier Thursday, the city said it plans to take the unprecedented step of releasing video of a fatal police shooting just days after it happened.
The planned 11 a.m. Friday release related to last week’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old car theft suspect Paul O’Neal would conform to a new policy requiring the release of relevant video within 60 days of a police shooting.